From the time they’re born, children learn skills that prepare them for reading. These skills include speaking and understanding language, recognizing letters, and sharing stories and books with adults. But children entering kindergarten start with varied levels of language and early literacy skills, and many states and districts lack high quality measures of whether these cohorts of children are on track to read proficiently. Teachers might measure kindergarten entry skills and periodically assess reading progress to guide instruction, but school and district leaders lack information about how to connect these measures to later reading proficiency. REL Mid-Atlantic explored whether these kindergarten entry assessments can provide states and districts with a useful measure of progress toward proficient reading for cohorts of children.
Our nation is in a child care crisis – particularly for infant and toddler care – and this issue is finally hitting the mainstream. Rarely a week goes by without a new article, report, or shocking statistic drawing attention to the sad fact that in its current form, the financing for child care in America is broken. The quality of services is inconsistent at best and most state- and federally-funded programs serve only a fraction of eligible families. This broken system is failing to promote the healthy development of our youngest learners and failing to support their parents, especially those who need child care so that they can work or go to school.
Estimates from the 2010 Census put the undercount at or above 1 million children under age 5. In our home state of Illinois alone, there is concern that over 100,000 people will be undercounted, many of those being children under the age of 5, along with black, Latinx, and retired populations. Undercounting has major implications for the organizations and communities that provide much-needed services and quality early education and care for infants and toddlers. Knowing how many young children live in a community influences how funding is allocated for programs like Head Start and Early Head Start, pre-K, nutrition assistance, Medicaid and much more.
In San Antonio, Texas, elementary school principals get hands-on coaching and advice from early childhood experts during visits to pre-K classrooms. In Alabama, principals can attend a unique leadership academy to learn about how to support teachers working with young children. In Minnesota, a series of workshops offered across the state aims to educate school leaders and teachers on child development and pre-K through third grade work. A 2015 survey found only 20 percent of early-career principals in schools with pre-K classrooms felt “well-versed” in early ed; and a 2017 nationwide scan by New America found in most states, principals start without “the knowledge and skills they need to best serve young students.”